BERSERK and the Band of the Hawk is a game that immerses the player directly into the Golden Age story arc of the original BERSERK series. The player follows Guts on several missions with various mercenary groups, while being treated to flashbacks of his time with his mentor Gambino. Eventually Guts fights the Band of the Hawk, losing to their leader, Griffith, and begrudgingly joins their mercenary group. From there, we see how Guts becomes leader of the group, and how his relationships grow and develop with different key members, such as love interest Casca, and Griffith himself.
The plot is advanced mostly through dialogue, with some lengthy cut scenes thrown in for good measure. There are also “events” which is pulp conversation that happens between different characters in the Band of the Hawk, which add an extra layer to the story.
Overall the controls are fine and fluid. The game itself is produced by Omega-Force, the same studio behind Dynasty Warriors. Anyone familiar with the play style of DW or other similar hack and slash titles will find this a game that is very easy to pick up. You can safely rely solely on the attack buttons without worrying about sustaining much (if any) damage from enemies. The game does provide the ability to lock onto opponents, but it is hard to keep track of the locked-on opponent as wave after wave of expendable soldiers are thrown at you for you to swiftly obliterate.
Balance of power is heavily weighted in your favor, so small to mid-range bad guys don’t provide much of a challenge. Boss battles on the other hand take time, and careful planning.
The backdrop for the setting is beautifully designed, as are the cut scene animations, and that is where most of the creativity ends. Enemies typically have the same design model, so there is little diversity, with tougher bad guys being slightly taller, so trying to kill certain baddies to advance the plot can turn into a game of Where’s Waldo. This is a game to appreciate in-between combat when it comes to the art.
The game tends to lag a little when there are lots of bad guys on the screen. Having too many enemies on screen can also cause the game to just stop, as in all the enemies just stop what they are doing, and wait to be slaughtered.
The music is well orchestrated. It enhances each level and adds to the ambiance of the fight or exploration, but plays on a loop, so it can get annoying during long battles or load screens. There is no English voice cast, so while the Japanese voice cast is emotive and committed to their acting, some of that passion is lost in lack of translation. While the game is subtitled, the studio behind it did not subtitle everything, so there are some brief moments where you may miss what was being said.
For such a mission-driven game, BERSERK offers a surprising amount of optional goals and challenges for the player. In nearly every quest, Behelits can be found for the player to collect. Readers will remember that the Behelit/Beherit is a small, egg-shaped object with disconcerting human facial features. These can be collected in game play while the user is playing as Guts. Collecting a Behelit unlocks one frame in a secret picture. This picture is revealed once all the Behelits are collected. This is interesting for those who absolutely need to collect ALL the things.
BERSERK also offers different missions which can be replayed as different characters of the Band of the Hawk. While it appears that Guts is the only one who can collect the Behelits to unlock the panel pieces, this does allow the player to gain different perspectives and increase the stats of different characters. Different outfits and items can also be earned at the end of completed missions, which provides another area of the game that requires completion.
The game also has two other styles of play available: Free Play mode and Endless Eclipse mode. Free Play mode allows you to play as your favorite unlocked character and replay past missions as any character you have unlocked. This differs slightly from the main story mode where certain characters are locked from certain missions. In Endless Eclipse mode the player is taken to The Abyss, where you fight wave after wave of damned souls and demons, as well as enemies you may have faced in the main storyline.
Overall it is an average combat-based story game. Nothing stood out as terrible or atrocious, but I was left feeling a little hungry for more of a challenge. The progression of the story is very achievement based, which, while good at driving the story, leaves the game feeling a little cookie-cutter. This game has a lot of replayability if you like to see things completed to fruition, but unfortunately doesn’t offer up much in regards to unique replays.
Our thanks to Koei Tecmo for providing us with a review copy!